Thursday, September 4, 2014

Philippians 4: Becoming a Joyful Christian

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Phil 4:4-13Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Paul exhorts the Philippians to "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice" (v.4). Christians should not go around with a scour in the face, but a smile. A smile is an overflow of joy inside our hearts. But how can we maintain this joyful state. There are few tips in Paul's final chapter to the Philippians:
  • "Rejoice in the Lord": First and foremost, the rejoicing is not over our circumstances (which are ever-changing), but "in the Lord". In other words, we are always to focus on the Lord who loves us and gave himself for us. We abide moment by moment in Him by "practising His presence." In other words, we consciously recall He is with us at every moment through simple affirmative words like, "Thank You Lord You are here with me." Or "Lord, I love you." By such words, we acknowledge His presence with us. The psalmist tells us that "in your presence there is fullness of joy" (Ps. 16:11).
  • Reasonable: This is translated as "gentle" or "moderation," "forbearance", even "sweet reasonableness." This refers to an attitude that is the opposite of the combative or argumentative stance. It suggests an absence of the need to put people right, but instead is forbearing when people are wrong. When we are free from the need to correct others, we can maintain a joyful spirit of equanimity. Those who are combative and opinionated are likely to be constantly upset and losing their joy.
  • Pray instead of Fret: Having kept ourselves continually in God's presence, our response to challenging circumstances of life is not to fret or worry but to pray. Bring our requests before God with an attitude of thanksgiving: "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Phil 4:6). When we pray, we hand over the problem to God and let Him handle what we have no control over while we focus on what we can do. When we act in faith, we overcome anxiety.
  • Think Positive: Paul exhorts the Philippians to focus on the good things that God has blessed us with, instead of gripe about bad things that are happening: "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4:8). Fill our minds with God's goodness and blessings to us. When we think of God's goodness as expressed at the Cross, in our personal life and in our ministry, we will be joyful. But when we think of all the wrong things that people are doing to us and to one another, we get depressed--which is the opposite of joy. The antidote for depression is God's joy. Being joyful is a choice, not an emotion.
  • Be Content: Paul says, "for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content" (Phil 4:11). There is nothing more miserable in life (and more joy-sapping) than to always compare ourselves with others: we either become egoistic if we think we are better or become envious if we think we are worse off. Either way, we forfeit the joy of the Lord which is our strengthen. Focus on what we have, not what we don't have. There is much to give thanks for.
I once heard one lecturer during my seminary days said that it's hypocritical to act cheerfully when we are emotionally down. Looking back, I think she was wrong: Rejoicing in the Lord is  a command and therefore a choice. We can choose to be joyful by following Paul's tips listed above. Or we can continue to be miserable Christians.

Our feelings follow our actions. We should not let feelings decide how we act--that will be self-destructive. But we should act in such a way so that the right feelings will overflow.

Father, thank You that You call us to be spiritual people--people who are led by their spirits that are in tune with Your Spirit. Deliver us from false beliefs and ideas. Amen.

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